As leaders, we often ask ourselves during difficult times, what is the most important thing that we can do right now? While interviewing one of our local business leaders about current strategies, he commented “waiting to see what happens is not a strategy I ever studied in graduate school. I need to make sure I’m positioned where I want to be with the resources I have and the resources I will need.” This drives to the heart of navigating today’s ever-changing business world: With the team we need intact, we will be ready for what’s on the horizon.
Yes, the media continues to harp on the negative, convinced we are a step away from Armageddon. The greatest loss we could be faced with is not having to lay someone off but rather losing one of the key members of our team. While cutbacks hurt morale and are difficult to manage, usually this does not affect the better performers but rather the bottom quartile of our operations. Many companies today are relying on a false sense of security caused by the misconception that it is difficult for their better people to make a move. Today’s market is not as robust as it was in 2008 but jobs do exist for highly skilled workers in the field of accounting, office administration, IT and engineering professionals. We can not let the challenges caused by decreased sales or budget constraints draw our attention away from anchoring our best people. So, to increase what I call connectivity, here are five checkpoints to consider:
- Strengthen Communication. One of the greatest causes of turnover is the disconnect between employee and the job itself. Notice I did not say the manager or boss. Today’s workforce wants to understand two things: what is expected of me in this role and why does it matter. The more time we invest in helping people see their roles through the eyes of management, the customer or both, the greater chance there is in meeting expectations or better yet, surpassing them.
- Assign special projects. Special projects generate energy in the office and break the norm. By getting our focus on to improving workflow or generating special studies and reports, there is an increased sense of contribution to the group and a strong sense of importance.
- Performance evaluations. Don’t wait for the annual review to meet with the team and discuss how they are performing. The uncertainty you might be trying to handle is an emotion all of your employees are also wrestling with. They watch television, surf the net and are filled with the same anxiety we are. There is a great possibility that if they are not part of the management team it affects them even more so. Doubt and worry get magnified by any obstacle or shortfall the company might experience inflamed by constant droning of the rough economic times being reported. Short-term performance evaluations offer time for affirmation and redirection which could actually increase performance levels.
- Compensation Expectations. Don’t steer away from discussions on compensation adjustments. If increases can be awarded, let them know. If not, spell out the situation you are managing, their role in the success and what you hope to do in the future. Promise to readdress the issue in a prescribed period of time. The state of unknown causes more harm than the uncertainty of speculation.
- Connect Personally. The more someone knows about us, the more we feel connected to them, not the reverse. In the heat of battle, we sometimes forget to slow down to get to know our team as well as we would like. If we want to retain our top talent, it is critical for us to invest time in finding out more about them personally as well as the professional goals they have. A few minutes each week becomes glue and sends a signal that you care.
Connectivity is not a place we strive for as managers; it is an action word requiring proactive steps and forethought. Now, more than ever, we need to anchor our teams to be the base from which we will build. Don’t let your guard down and end up blindsided by losing someone important in which you have invested time and financial resources.
So, I’ll ask you again, the question I posed at the beginning of this post: As leaders, what is the most important thing that we can do right now?